Putting “Life in Motion” with iStopMotion and an eBook

The key to my teaching,” Steven Caldwell says, “is the concept of play – learning through narrative play in interdisciplinary domains as a means to generate collaborative communities.

Steven is an Australian primary/elementary and middle school teacher who currently works at MLC School in Burwood, a day school for girls from Pre-K to 12 (and IB). As a teacher, he has an interest in utilizing virtual world- and game-based learning to develop positive values. Because of this, he has heavily incorporated the use of media into his classroom.

Enabling students to create media provides opportunities for them to take ownership of their learning in new ways, particularly with regard to finding authentic audiences,” he says.

It was Steven’s ideas toward using media as an instructional tool that led him to discover iStopMotion in 2012, when he saw a year-three student using it for a project. Steven was asked to participate in the project the following year, so he took it upon himself to create a short iStopMotion movie so he could better help his students understand how to use the program (check out the "Doctor Who" example above!).

iStopMotion proves to be the most intuitive stop motion animation software available,” he says. “Within minutes you have a workable movie. More importantly, the interface allows you to easily edit sections that do not flow smoothly by reproducing frames or deleting them. This easily resolves any pacing issues. Both myself and the students found this really valuable. Personally, I love being able to have two cameras operate simultaneously through Wi-Fi networks with the iStopMotion Remote Camera app. By connecting my iPhone and iPad together on the same film project, I was able to create far more dynamic moments by cutting between camera views in real time. It also makes the editing process much easier.

Steven knew that he wanted to take his students one step further with iStopMotion. With the help of the other year-three teachers, the IT Pedagogy team members and the wonderfully enthusiastic students in year three set out to create an iStopMotion eBook.

The project was largely a science-based inquiry into life cycles,” he says. “The animation was in service to that concept of change and continuity. The notion of converting to a multi-touch book comes from a larger pedagogical question – who is the audience? When students are provided with authentic audiences other than solely the teacher, miraculous things happen. Children learn far too readily these days that near enough can be good enough for some teachers. You can see a tendency to just get things done in the hope of moving on to something else that may (or may not) be more stimulating. Present them with the high stakes of publishing a book for their peers, family and the wider world … then you see an increased level of commitment and professionalism that is impressive for 9-year-olds!

Even though Steven had never widely taught the use of iStopMotion and iMovie, or even used iBooks Author before, he was up for the challenge of creating the eBook. The project would build on his initial iStopMotion project, where students used the app to create narratives based around religious festivals. For the eBook, they shifted the focus toward life sciences to apply to their new curriculum.

First, the staff exposed the students to the principles of animation, and from there, the students’ minds took off. They each selected a living thing to explore and gathered research so they could develop their own storyboards about the lifecycles of their chosen organism. After storyboarding, the students brought their ideas to life with the help of iStopMotion and their iPad minis.

Watching the students learn how to collaborate and solve (or at least try to solve) problems was extremely rewarding,” Stevens says. “Seeing how some students chose to extend themselves by importing the footage into iMovie was an unexpected bonus.

From there, Steven acted as an electronic typesetter. He collated all of the information from the students to create each chapter. Then using iTunes Connect, he published the eBook on the iBookStore, where it can be downloaded now for free. Check out Life in Motion to see the incredible work the students put in to this ambitious project!

Steven believes that using iStopMotion helped embed the learning process into his students’ minds in a fun way. He says that to this day, his students can still tell you all about how living things change and reproduce! He also believes it helped so much because the eBook project was student-directed, therefore giving the students a real sense of agency. Steven notes that they asked far more interesting questions than the staff expected, particularly about how they could solve difficulties but also about how they might extend their movies with captions and sound. The technology supported the students to own the process and rely less on teachers to make decisions for them. Steven says it released creativity and problem-solving at the same time.

The key to creating iStopMotion movies in educational settings is to have creative, engaged teachers who, like their students, are willing to take risks,” he says. “At MLC School, I am blessed to work with experienced, visionary teachers who are willing to have a go and provide new opportunities for extending learning, even when the outcome is not assured. I am grateful for the staff who invited me to collaborate with them on what could have been a nightmare but ended up being a valiant attempt at publishing a multi-touch eBook. Mostly, I am grateful for the students who embraced this project with a surprising degree of patience, fortitude and tolerance.

We are so impressed with the level of iStopMotion talent and ambition from the team at MLC! Be sure to check out their eBook and Steven’s great stop motion animation above!